Food Forward

Reimagining the Mantou: Enhanced Nutrition in Frozen Steamed Buns!

Chinese Steamed Bread (CSB), commonly referred to as mantou, is a fermented and steamed wheat-based delicacy, celebrated for its unique cultural attributes. Crafted from a simple mixture of wheat flour, yeast, and water, CSB is notable for its high glycaemic index, which has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. While frozen preservation can extend the shelf-life of CSB by up to six months, it may also lead to a decline in quality due to staling. To prevent this, food additives like natural polysaccharides, soluble dietary fibre, and emulsifiers can be added to CSB to soften, delay staling, ensuring a longer shelf life. This method can also help producers minimizing economic losses.

Get to Know the Chinese Steamed Bun (Mantou)

Steamed buns are available either fresh or frozen, or processed with varying stuffing and flour type. The frozen steamed bun segment is growing as a result of increase in demand for packaged and processed food4.  Chinese steamed bread (CSB) (sometimes written as Chinese steamed bun or mantou) is a type of fermented and steamed wheat food with distinctive cultural features.

The origin of the Chinese name mantou (馒头) is commonly attributed to the famous politician Zhuge Liang during the period of the Three Kingdoms, more specifically, the 3rd century A.D5. The name ‘steamed bread’ is derived from the method of cooking fermented dough by steaming. The traditional method of making CSB contributes to the unique flavor, pleasant aroma and smooth white skin of the product, making it distinct from Western bread3. Generally, mantou is categorized into three types (Table 1) : Northern Style, Southern Style, and Guangdong style3.

Northern Style

Southern Style

Guangdong Style

  • Generally characterized by high cohesiveness and elasticity with white smooth skin, dense texture, and bland taste.
  • Mainly consumed in northern China.
  • Has low cohesiveness and a soft and open texture with white skin and a sweet taste.
  • Consumed not only in southern China, but also in Japan, Korea, and some Southeast Asian countries.
  • Is generally consumed as a type of dessert in various forms.
  • Consumed not only in southern China, but also in Japan, Korea, and some Southeast Asian countries.

Challenges Encountered in Mantou Preparations

Chinese Steamed Buns (CSB) are commonly prepared from a blend of wheat flour, yeast or sourdough, and water, which undergo a fermentation process before being steamed. However, the refinement of wheat flour through industrial milling has led to the depletion of essential dietary vitamins, fibre, and nutrients, thereby escalating the risk of chronic diseases1.

Since mantou are predominantly crafted from refined wheat flour, it will contribute to a high glycaemic index (GI > 90). Foods with elevated glycaemic indices are associated not only with diabetes but also with an array of chronic conditions, including cardiovascular diseases and obesity5.

Frozen preservation can extend the shelf life of mantou by up to six months. However, this method may lead to a slight decrease in quality during storage, as evidenced by a 0.9% increase in hardness and a 28.6% decrease in chewiness.1.

Staling poses a significant challenge in the storage of frozen mantou, resulting in a decline in quality over time. This deterioration manifests as dry, cracked surfaces and a less compact structure prone to crumbling. The increased hardness, decreased elasticity, and diminished flavour during storage significantly diminishes consumer satisfaction with mantou and poses substantial economic losses for producers6.

One of the effective methods to inhibit the hardening and staling of CSB is to add food additives to CSB. The addition of natural polysaccharides, soluble dietary fibre such as inulin, locust bean gum, and konjac glucomannan to CSB can soften it and delay staling, thus ensuring a longer shelf life6.

Additionally, some other additives also such as emulsifiers or sodium alginate have been used to extend the shelf-life of CSB4.

Table 2. Influence of emulsifiers and their chemical components on the quality of CSB4.

Description of ingredient/ component

CSB type

Major features of CSB quality

Diacetyl tartaric acid ester of

monoglycerides (DATEM)


DATEM improved the structure, elasticity, and whiteness of CSB.

Sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL)


SSL addition retarded the retrogradation and staling of CSB.

Solutions for a Healthier and Tastier Mantou




Black Chia Seed


·        Rich source of omega-3 Fatty Acids

·        High in fibre

·        Contain protein, antioxidant and minerals

·        Low calorie

Orafti HP


·        Plant-based ingredient from chicory root

·        Prebiotic dietary fibres

·        Promote digestive health: Improved intestinal flora balance

·        Support in blood glucose management, low glycaemic index

·        Reduce overall calorie intake: Weight management

·        Better and pleasant texture, creaminess & mouthfeel

·        Sugar reduction

DMG 5611


·        Better nutritional profile

·        Substitute unhealthy hardened fats, high 
         saturated fats, trans fats & shortenings

·        Shelf-life extension

·        Better batter-stability, quality, moistness & mouthfeel

·        Prolonged shelf life & cost reductions

·        Provides finer & regular crumb structure with higher volume

Mantou Recipe

Discover our unique Chinese Steamed Bun recipe. Made with a range of functional ingredients, it is a  healthier take on the traditional delicacy that contains dietary fiber and reduced sugar levels.



Marketing the Modern Mantou

Seeing the market opportunities, we embrace the challenge of reinvigorating the traditional Chinese Steamed Bread (CSB), or mantou, for today’s health-conscious market. By incorporating nutrient-rich ingredients like chia seeds, quinoa, flaxseed, and turmeric, the modern mantou variants promise not just enhanced nutritional benefits—such as higher fibre content, reduced sugar, and essential nutrients like vitamin C and zinc—but also diverse and appealing flavours.

This approach not only caters to those on a diet but also introduces a palette of tastes that meet the global consumer’s demand for healthier, more nutritious options. The innovation extends to experimenting with local and international flavours, making mantou a versatile dish that aligns with contemporary taste profiles and health trends.

As a full-suite market enabler for food businesses, DPO International works in tandem with specialized food ingredient producers such as Benexia, Beneo, and Palsgaard to help you transform the latest trends within the food industry into innovative products for modern consumers. Get in touch with us to learn more.


  1. Hu, X., Sheng, X., Liu, L., Ma, Z., Li, X., & Zhao, W. (2015). Food system advances towards more nutritious and sustainable mantou production in China. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition24(2), 199–205.
  2. 1Peng, Y., Zhao, Y., Jin, X., Xiong, Y., Dong, J., & Ma, W. (2023). Empirical and theoretical bases of good steamed bread production. Foods, 12(3), 433.
  3. World Bakers. (2018). Steamed Buns: A Chinese Traditional Staple.
  4. Zhu, F. (2014). Influence of ingredients and chemical components on the quality of Chinese steamed bread. Food Chemistry, 163, 154–162.
  5. Zhu, F., & Li, J. (2018). Physicochemical properties of steamed bread fortified with ground linseed (linum usitatissimum). International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 54(5), 1670–1676.
  6. Guo, D., Yin, X., Cheng, H., Chen, J., & Ye, X. (2022). Fortification of Chinese steamed bread with glycyrrhizauralensis polysaccharides and evaluation of its quality and performance attributes. Foods, 11(15), 2253.